There’s something about a really well written fantasy/sci-fi novel that captures me. Such novels trace the complexity of darkness and light in human (and other!) beings. They often document the winding of journeys and lives that look to the travelers in the story to be meaningless, but from the reader’s view of the whole, are oh so necessary. They uncover the magic of everyday and the giftedness of individuals and communities. They show the best of the villains, and the worst of the heroines and heroes. Nature and the created world (or universe) are often key elements – not just as backdrop – but as living entities. They display dynamic portaits of arrogance and humility, the mystical and the violent, the possible and the limited, hope and despair, generosity and beauty, selfishness and pride, redemption and conversion, love and hate, death and new life, beauty and horror, the ugly and the graceful, thoughts’ power and intuition’s gifts, the ‘what could have been’ and the ‘where we really are’.
The writers of such works, I believe, have a powerful vision and way of describing how mixed up and dissonant, harmonious and limitless, momentary and eternal is life as we actually experience it. Their art is an amazing gift. In ways, I think reading such works over the years has tutored me in the rawness and unfinishedness of life in its everyday experiencing, and helped me know that life as it actually is is of great value in this moment – regardless of its immediate appearance to this pilgrim-traveler.
Writers give readers the gift to see into lives deeply, and yet to be above the action. Readers’ views are like that had within a traffic helicopter, able to distinguish the snarls and problems and open ways ahead and behind the life-commute of the characters. Perhaps where we are in these days after the Triduum similarly provides a chance to look deeply within, and to see better in a wider perspective.
The Easter season invites reflection from a place of great life and hope on the pilgrimages that each and all of us are on in our lives. From here we can look back through the Easter fire and see the paths we have traveled, and look down at what is under our feet. We frequently do not really know or understand in the middle of our stories what is going on (like the novel characters above), and this season is no ‘magic’ vision place where we finally get all the answers or come to absolute understanding. It’s not the top of a guru’s hill, but a spot at its base outside an empty tomb where we listen and experience and learn. It’s not having reached Emerald City, but coming to terms with what it might mean to be persons-in-community in an upper room who don’t really understand entirely, but are together in relationship. For those of us who live in the hope of Lumen Christi, we are not given absolute answers, but a way to live and walk in faith. We recall not only the stories and histories of faith retold at the Easter vigil as signs of God’s real presence with God’s people, but we can come to see our own in retrospect similarly.
These days I take an amazing number of pictures of spring’s beauty, since it is my favorite season. It’s taking snapshots of a specific moment in the journey of a tree, a plant, a shrub, a bush. It glories in and holds as most real this moment of beauty. But the plants, the trees, the soil, the shrubs have many other seasons. From this place of its height of flowering and growth, those other moments of in-processness and actual or seeming dead-ness are not less real, but they don’t have the final word.
Dwelling deeply in the Easter season, and seeing from there, is also gift. Every moment of Jesus’ life – and ours – is a place where God is present with us, in the mundane and the mystical. And life – abundant and full life (the life of John 10:10) – is God’s wish for us all. Let us sit before the flowers of spring, gaze at the beauty of the blossom, sketch or sing or write about the empty cross and the transformed Christ’s appearance, and see what seeing our lives from here brings us.
Does it help us to value our meanderings of the past and the “X” which marks the spot where we are?
Can it assist us in being compassionate with others in our lives whose wanderings look strange to us, or who bother us in some way?
Can we build community from a place that recognizes how different we all are when we enter one room, when all the places we are on life’s journey collide when we enter one place?
Can we pray from a place of confusion and hope, clarity and fog, trusting that God’s vision of us is what is real, not our own constructions and limited conceptions?
Easter helps us believe that good news is true. We have the opportunity to develop the spiritual ‘muscles’ to live in this hope – in the midst of our human experience of the temporary and timed and sometimes terrifying.
I imagine today what it is like if I hold the new Paschal candle and see all of life through its flame.